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This article was originally published in the November/December 1994 issue of Home Energy Magazine. Some formatting inconsistencies may be evident in older archive content.

 

 

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Home Energy Magazine Online November/December 1994


UTILITIES

Steps to Successful Lighting Programs

 


From information programs to financial incentives, collective efforts and technology-push programs, there are many ways utilities can encourage consumers to use more efficient residential lighting.


by Gary B. Fernstrom

Gary B. Fernstrom is a senior product manager for Pacific Gas and Electric Co. and chairman of Home Energy's Board of Directors.

 


There is a light at the top of the staircase of opportunity for improved residential lighting, but odds are it's not as bright or efficient as it could be. Despite the apparent benefits of conversion, there are significant consumer barriers to adopting fluorescent lighting in the home. Over the past few years, utility program managers seeking energy savings have been trying innovative methods to overcome resistance to CFLs.

Information Programs

Information programs are the cornerstone on which all energy conservation efforts are built. They offer broad-based energy efficiency information which may be targeted to a specific audience, but not conducted one-on-one with consumers. These programs are the least expensive to operate and can generate high customer value, as the sponsoring agency's logo will appear on the material.

Information about efficient residential lighting can be provided by even the smallest utility with the most limited resources. An informational CFL program can be as simple as enclosing a photocopied sheet with the customer's utility bill, or as complicated as distributing multi-colored, several-page brochures supported by local advertising.

Content is critical in any information piece, and comprehensiveness must be balanced against brevity. Research done by Macro Consulting (now called Energy Strategy Reports) for the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) in 1992 concluded that price is a major barrier to widespread adoption of CFLs. The report, Perceptions of Compact Fluorescent Lamps in the Residential Market (EPRI TR-100734) also indicates that the energy savings benefits are not likely to be seen in the bill of the average household, and that CFLs do not fit in many sockets, do not produce enough light for major applications, and are not widely available in traditional outlets. Consumers are likely to wait and see until price drops and performance improves. Interestingly, the very term fluorescent has strong workplace overtones, making it implicitly unwelcome in many homes. The research also shows that consumers think of lamps in terms of watts and do not think about light output in lumens--they are unfamiliar with the units necessary to find the most efficient light sources. While products have recently shown considerable improvement, these perceptions need to be addressed in any communications piece.

An outstanding point-of-purchase information program featuring lighting and other products was administered by Marcon, Inc., for Hydro Québéc. Their Econos program consisted of four phases, run from the spring of 1991 to the fall of 1992. Marcon identified products that were more energy-efficient than those normally used and listed them in a catalog that was shared with Hydro Québéc and candidate retail chain store participants. Hydro Québéc promoted the program to customers through bill inserts and offered to cost share print, radio, and TV advertising with participating retailers. Many retailers set aside special floor space to feature the Econos products. According to Marcon, the program had exceeded its objective by 56% by the end of phase III, and the number of participating retail chains had grown from 32 initially to 82, with the energy savings costing Hydro Québéc less than 1cents per kWh.

Education Programs

Education programs provide information one-on-one in response to individual consumers needs. They are more expensive to operate than information programs, due to the labor costs, but expert application advice will provide consumers with the best recommendation for their specific needs. With individualized education, consumers are more likely to be satisfied with the CFLs they buy, so the new lamps will not be removed and more may be purchased.

Education programs can range in cost and complexity from telephone discussions with an account representative, to a simple brochure mailed out in response to a consumer's question.Toll-free hotlines like the Energy Ideas Clearinghouse sponsored by the Washington State Energy Office or Pacific Gas & Electric Company's Smarter Energy Line provide detailed answers to residents in a utility's service area.

In addition to educating consumers, highly technical educational efforts can be focused on home builders and industry professionals. The Pacific Northwest's Lighting Design Lab in Seattle, PG&E's Pacific Energy Center, and the Southern California Edison Company's Customer Technology Applications Center are examples of resource centers for design professionals and builders seeking the best information on energy-efficient construction.

Giving Away Light Bulbs

Some utilities give CFLs away on a selective basis as a vehicle for educating consumers and increasing their awareness. These distributions are often made in conjunction with home energy surveys. While this approach may increase awareness, program designers must be careful not to undermine the sales of CFLs at retail stores. The goal is to spur retail sales because consumers like the bulbs they were given. It is therefore important to choose the bulbs carefully to match the needs of the user (see How To Keep 'Em Down Home in the Socket).

CENTRAL MAINE POWER: THE LIONS AND THE LIGHTSWITCH

Financial Incentive Programs

Once information and education spark the interest of consumers for energy-efficient light bulbs, the market barriers of price and availability remain. Financial incentive programs can address these barriers by temporarily lowering the cost to the consumer for the higher-efficiency products. Higher consumer demand leads to increased production, affording economies of scale in production and distribution, and resulting in permanent price reductions.

The financial justification for utilities offering rebates is that consumers typically have one- to three-year investment payback expectations, while utilities planning new supply expect to wait 10 to 15 years. Therefore, if the utility criteria is applied to reducing use instead of increasing supply, subsidies can be afforded and (if less expensive than the supply) work to the advantage of all consumers over the long run.

Research done by PG&E shows that, if not for utility subsidy programs, CFLs would not be as well known by consumers, as available in the market, as technically advanced, or as low-priced as they currently are. But while they are clearly a powerful tool, financial incentive programs can be tricky to design and implement. The many approaches include consumer rebates by mail, point of purchase coupons, and manufacturer cost credits. Each approach offers different pros and cons.

Coupons and Rebates

Financial incentives paid to the customer in the form of point-of-purchase coupons or mail-in rebates can be complicated to design and evaluate. One should consider how many participants would purchase the product without the incentive, and how many purchased the product because of the incentive, but never redeemed the coupon or sent in for the rebate. Mail-in rebates are seldom 100% redeemed. This is figuratively called breakage in the trade. Actual redemption ranges from about 20% to 80% or more depending on the value involved. Point-of-purchase coupons are virtually 100% redeemed when featured in the store, but they too may exhibit breakage if the rebate coupon is mailed to the consumer's home. In this case, some consumers may purchase the product even though the coupon is left at home. Point-of-purchase coupons carry the additional difficulty of requiring the retailer to collect them for redemption which some retailers are not willing to do.

Coupons and rebates may encourage dealers to carry products that they normally wouldn't carry and offer cooperative special price reductions beyond the coupon's value. On the other hand, since the utility cannot dictate what retailers charge, some dealers may not pass the full savings on to the consumer.

Direct Sales

Mail-order programs, in which the utility sells the light bulbs directly, make CFLs available to customers who do not have a local retailer who carries the products, but may also undermine the retailers' inclination to carry them. However, PG&E's experience with its One Stop Energy Shop mail-order program indicated a peak in retail sales when energy-efficient products were promoted through bill stuffers. The advertising in the bill stuffers prompted incidental sales through local retailers in addition to the sales for the mail-order program.

Successful mail-order programs have featured full-sized cutouts of CFLs to give prospective purchasers a better idea of the size of the lamps, but they have not offered such low prices that consumers stocked up, waiting for a socket to open up.

Manufacturer Incentives

Manufacturer cost credits, if properly designed, can reduce the wholesale purchase price on which the retail markup is taken (see Buying Down the Manufacturers: The Southern California Edison Story, p. 32). For example, if a manufacturer is offered a $4 cost reduction credit on a compact fluorescent lamp, the base price is lowered and the resultant price to consumers can be less than if the rebate were offered to them directly. In PG&E's 1993 CFL cost credit program, the effective retail price reduction was 1.9 times the actual value of cost credits paid to manufacturers. This effect is called price reduction leverage.

The expenses of designing, administering, and operating financial incentive programs, as well as paying the rebates, can make them costly. Such programs should be designed to move the market toward higher efficiency levels by increasing consumer demand. Ideally, as trade allies accommodate the effort, more efficient products are stocked in larger quantities, and competitive forces cause prices to drop. A truly successful financial incentive program will therefore make itself obsolete as the marketplace takes over, opening up the potential for a higher order market transformation effort (see Transforming the Market in Madison, below).

Collective Efforts

Collective action can make small efforts into larger ones that merit more response by trade allies dealing with regional or national markets. In 1989, operating under a grant from the Bonneville Power Administration, the Washington State Energy Office was asked to provide administrative support for collective groups of Northwest utilities. The two groups became known as the Northwest Residential Efficient Lighting Group and the Northwest Residential Efficient Appliance Group. They have since combined and changed their name to the Residential Efficient Appliance and Lighting group (REAL). The purpose of these groups was to exchange information about high-efficiency technologies and utility energy-conservation program issues, and to gain some program consistency through voluntary collaboration. Soon the meetings were being attended by representatives of the Oregon Department of Energy and various California utilities. REAL has been instrumental in implementing very effective area-wide manufactured home, showerhead, and electric water heater programs. On lighting, the group produced informational materials but decided not to pursue larger-scale joint financial incentive programs.

In late 1990, the Southern California Edison Company (SCE), in conjunction with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), held a compact fluorescent lamp program symposium at SCE's Customer Technology Applications Center. There, lighting manufacturers, distributors, and retailers got together with utility representatives and other interested parties to discuss how the purchase of efficient lighting products might be stimulated in the residential and small commercial markets.

The following year, PG&E worked with the NRDC and other interested utilities to form the California Compact, a non-profit corporation dedicated to increasing consumer awareness of efficient lighting, increasing the availability and affordability of CFLs in the retail market, and improving the technical performance of the lamps. The California Compact publishes a newsletter, and has prepared a consumer education piece called A Practical Guide to Energy Efficient Lighting, sponsored two national lighting workshops, and worked with manufacturers and Green Seal to develop technical performance guidelines. The California Compact was instrumental in the early introduction of high power factor, low harmonic distortion electronic-ballasted compact fluorescent lamps (see Group Places Compact Fluorescents In A Good Light, HE May/June '91, p.10, and So Many Sockets, So Little Time, HE Mar/Apr '93, p.7). These efforts raised the availability of CFLs in retail stores in California and gave utilities valuable insight into how the lighting market works.

In late 1991, the Western Utility Consortium was formed. The California Compact preceded the formation of the W.U.C., whose mission was to provide a similar opportunity for collaboration among utilities in California and other West Coast states, especially for those whose demand-side management (DSM) programs involve trade allies such as appliance and lighting product retailers and manufacturers. Western has promoted voluntary information exchange among program sponsors, leading to greater program consistency.

The organizers of the Golden Carrot Super Efficient Refrigerator Program (SERP) saw the opportunity for a consortium on a national scale that could provide a forum for collaboration by individual utilities or regional groups. The Consortium for Energy Efficiency (CEE) is comprised of 35 utilities and is considering two potential CFL programs -- a SERP-like competition for the production and distribution of a technically superior residential lamp, and a national manufacturer cost-credit program among sponsoring utilities.

The relative cost of participating in regional and national collaborative forums is small, but the potential effectiveness of such efforts in simplifying and leveraging the response of trade allies is enormous.

Market Transformation

All the programs discussed so far are intended to increase the penetration of CFLs into the marketplace. Many of them are examples of market pull programs, wherein demand is created for energy-efficient products, encouraging manufacturers to produce them. Other utility programs are aimed at technology push, making available products that otherwise simply would not be on the market at all. Utilities' efforts can shorten normal market introduction time and help ensure that economies of scale in manufacture and distribution are realized.

Examples of technology-push programs are SERP and the (Triathlon) Gas Engine Driven Heat Pump program sponsored by the American Gas Cooling Center, the Gas Research Institute, and a group of utilities. Whirlpool's Super Efficient Refrigerator is now in production, and over 50 Triathlon gas engine driven heat pumps have been produced so far.

Seldom does a single utility or agency have the resources to deal with the capital requirements of large scale manufacturing. However, through competitive procurement and direct manufacturer cost-reduction incentives, collaborative programs position utility sponsors as part purchasers, making available products that would otherwise remain on the drawing boards of manufacturers.

Technical Issues

Major improvements have been made in CFL size, shape, light output, efficacy, color, and electrical characteristics. Unfortunately, the most technically advanced lamps are expensive and availability is limited. Probably the most important factor is size and shape, because if the lamp does not physically fit the application, nothing else matters. Fit is followed by satisfactory light output, color, starting characteristics, efficacy, and electrical characteristics. Utilities that are selecting CFLs for their programs should choose lamps that have broad applicability.

Power Quality

Utilities are concerned about the value of high power factor and low harmonic distortion (see Understanding Power Quality, HE Nov/Dec '93, p.36). I believe that even widespread use of conventional CFLs in residential applications will have negligible effect on electric distribution systems. However, large-scale use in commercial/industrial or multifamily dwelling applications does pose a potential problem. This is not to say there is no benefit to encouraging CFLs with improved electrical characteristics for residential application. Research by Robert Gilleskie of San Diego Gas and Electric Co. shows that the incremental energy-saving and demand-reduction value of improved electrical characteristics alone might be worth $2 to $3 to high-marginal-cost utilities using conventional DSM evaluation techniques. (Utilities with high marginal costs typically run their generation and/or transmission and distribution systems close to capacity. Adding loads with poor power factors and/or high harmonics stresses the system further. On the other hand, reducing demand by using CFLs with good power quality attributes has significant benefits.)

Deregulation Looms

With movement toward deregulation in the electric utility business, many energy-efficiency programs are endangered. Collaborative efforts may also be undermined if competitive pressures remove the incentive for utilities to support them. In this new environment, utility program managers may find themselves challenged to accomplish energy savings with tighter budgets. Choosing the right type or combination of programs will help ensure that CFL programs remain successful. n

 


CENTRAL MAINE POWER: THE LIONS AND THE LIGHTSWITCH

When I joined Central Maine Power Company (CMP) in the mid-eighties, the Energy Management Planning team was working on the design of a residential lighting program. Realizing that every October for many years the local Lions Clubs had gone door-to-door selling light bulbs, we wondered if CMP could tap into this already established distribution channel by asking the Lions to sell energy-efficient lighting instead.

We decided not to introduce compact fluorescent lamps in the first year, given the difference in price and appearance between CFLs and standard incandescents. Instead, we used a halogen bulb. It was more energy-efficient than a standard bulb, but the Lions could sell a six-pack of bulbs for $5.00. In preparation for the next phase, CMP had the manufacturer insert a small brochure on energy-efficient lighting that described several different kinds of compact fluorescent bulbs in the six-pack of halogens.

We ran three-quarter-page newspaper ads throughout the service area and a 30-second television spot ran for two weeks on seven stations.

The result? Successful distribution of 81,000 six-packs of halogen bulbs to approximately 34,641 customers. We were ready for the next phase.

Based on testing by utility employees, CMP selected the Osram Dulux-15 for the second part of the program with the Lions. Again, CMP prepared television and newspaper advertising.

A two-dimensional cardboard cut-out of the bulb was inserted into September bills so customers could estimate how many bulbs might fit in their homes before the Lions came to their doors.

The program was smashingly successful--90,000 bulbs sold out in one week! The combined program sales had sold enough bulbs to save over 81 million kWh and reduce demand by 5,100 kW.

Operation Lightswitch

The company was convinced that, as successful as the Lions were, they represented only a marginal or secondary distribution channel. The real aim was to get compact fluorescent bulbs into the primary lighting distribution channels.

CMP approached LaVerdier's, a statewide super drug chain, and once that company was on board, the two major supermarket chains in the service territory signed on as well. The company encouraged the retailers to get bids from a variety of CFL manufacturers, but insisted they select only electronically ballasted lamps.

Pricing was difficult, given that the lamps normally retail for $19-$24. Enabling customers to purchase bulbs for $4-$5 would ensure a payback period of six months for energy savings alone, so CMP agreed to a $9 coupon and worked with the retailers to lower their prices to the $13 to $14 range. Because one retailer offered the bulbs for $3.88 (with the CMP coupon) from the outset, eventually they all did.

Operation Lightswitch began on September 23 when CMP mailed $9 coupons to 450,000 residential customers as a bill insert. (A second mailing of coupons followed later.) The coupons were redeemable at participating retail stores for an instant discount at the register.

CMP aired TV and radio commercials, placed newspaper ads, and designed point-of-purchase displays. Nevertheless, after the first few weeks, sales were lagging. CMP's market research staff quickly designed a telephone survey. The results indicated that 82% of the customers had heard of the program but many were unintentionally leaving the coupons at home when they went shopping.

We then conducted two tests and, based on the results, we made coupons available at all retailers and placed demonstrators in high volume stores. Once these adjustments were made, sales skyrocketed.

When the sale ended on December 31, more than 171,000 bulbs had been sold. From this volume, CMP estimates it will save 8 megawatts of generating capacity. Over the life of the bulbs, this is a total energy savings of 88 million kilowatt-hours. In the years since Operation Lightswitch, retail stores in southern and central Maine have continued to stock CFLs, and several retailers have run special CFL promotions on their own. Central Maine Power accomplished its long range goal of moving the residential market towards energy efficiency.

-- Lynn K. Goldfarb

Lynn Goldfarb heads L.K. Goldfarb Associates in Portland, Maine. This article was excerpted from remarks presented at the Affordable Comfort conference, 1994.

 


TRANSFORMING THE MARKET IN MADISON: HOW RESEARCH AND EVALUATION WORKED

In 1990, Madison Gas and Electric Company's (MGE) 117,000 electric customers overwhelmingly purchased incandescent bulbs. An estimated 1%-5% of residential customers had installed compact fluorescent lighting. Only 4 of 100 retailers in the service area sold CFLs at the time, and they offered a total of only 6 models.

Our objectives were to help shape the retail marketplace into a reliable, permanent source of high-efficiency lighting products, educate and motivate customers to buy them, achieve maximum customer and utility energy savings at the least cost, and support, rather than compete with, lighting business allies.

The MGE program task force believed that direct product sales would place the utility in competition with its own trade allies without creating a self-sustaining market infrastructure, and judged rebate administration to be too costly for the lower-priced lighting products.

The concept that emerged included the use of coupons for lower-ticket lighting technologies. Coupons were cheap to administer, fast and easy to use, familiar to customers and retailers, combinable with manufacturer rebates, fraud-containable through screening and investigative procedures, and supportive of the trades and a permanent lighting infrastructure.

We launched a pilot program in 1990, (followed by a full-scale program in 1990-1991), which offered coupons (redeemable at point-of-purchase) for the lower-priced products, including CFLs, and mail-in rebates for the higher-priced products (high-pressure sodium and metal-halide fixtures). The program covered a wide range of technologies, including incandescents, halogens, and compact fluorescents. We provided incentives ranging from 10cents to $40, with $5 for CFLs, and circulated technical and program information to customers. To prevent non-customer use, we tightly controlled coupon distribution by numbering coupons and having customer requests triggered by a bill insert.

MGE also offered retailers cooperative advertising (MGE paid 50% of the costs) and promoted the program and its technologies through customer newsletters and ads on radio, television, and newspapers. The program ran for an entire year.

Evaluation and Fine Tuning

Initially, the program's impacts fell below our expectations. We evaluated the situation from a non-participant customer telephone survey (pilot stage), a focus group, retailer feedback, and staff observations.

For the 1991-1992 season we made several modifications including expanding program promotion, direct customer-coupon distribution though a bill insert (eliminating coupon numbering), and providing customers with a list of retailers carrying eligible products. We dropped incandescents, due to their marginal efficiency and free-ridership, and experimented with offering coupons at point-of-purchase.

Program performance improved significantly in 1991-1992, but still fell short of our goals. We researched similar utility programs which led to additional modifications for 1992-1993. We increased advertising, revised incentives for CFLs ($6 for 1; $14 for 2 CFLs), and used a shorter and more intensive program period, to avert customer procrastination and ensure sustained retailer focus. We adopted the practice of offering coupons at point-of-purchase and--to control against non-customer use--required customers to fill out names and addresses on the coupon, with the retailer verifying the data. We improved MGE's contact with manufacturers to guarantee product availability and promotional support. We also continually followed up with retailers to maintain their program awareness and understanding, and continued product availability. Program activity soared--with coupon redemption three times the goal for the year.

Evolved Program Surpasses Goals

MGE followed the same basic program mix for the 1993-1994 year, adding a few changes following a retailer survey and customer focus group on advertising messages. We extended the program period slightly, trained 120 retail store employees regarding CFLs and the coupon program, offered a higher incentive ($10 versus $5) for electronically-ballasted CFLs to improve customer satisfaction and persistence, and added a mail-order service (Energy Federation Inc.) which could reach customers who had difficulty getting to the stores. Based on the focus-group feedback, we geared advertisements toward customer benefits, such as personal and environmental savings, rather than simple descriptions of the technologies and the dollar incentives.

Program activity at both the coupon and rebate levels has exceeded goals. Based on our Residential Appliance Saturation Survey, MGE estimates that 28% of all residential customers participated over the 4 years of lighting programs. Moreover, there was evidence of free drivership both before and after the coupon portion of the program ended. The retailer infrastructure was extremely well-developed, with 62 retailers now selling more than 63 CFL models.

New Directions

Real market evolution has occurred--suggesting it is time to move the program in new directions. For 1994-1995, MGE has reduced reliance on direct subsidies and instead is emphasizing market support and maintenance activities, such as customer education and cooperative efforts with business allies. MGE will continue to work closely with manufacturers to help them with distribution channels and sales goals, and to offer retailers training, co-op advertising, and other support. From a technology standpoint, we will emphasize products with long-lasting impacts, such as CFL fixtures.

-- Eileen Vandoros

Eileen Vandoros is a senior market analyst in the Customer Research and Data area of the Marketing Department at Madison Gas and Electric Company in Wisconsin.

 

 

 


MGE RESIDENTIAL LIGHTING PROGRAM:

STATISTICS AND MARKET EVOLUTION

 

90-91 91-92 92-93 93-94 Totals Number of 1,295 4,664 59,019 85,000 149,978 coupons redeemed Number of rebates 148 379 727 1,472 2,726 processed Estimated program 28% participation Cumulative Incentives paid $6.9 $24.4 $427.8 $866.3 $1,325.4 (2 1,000, un-levelized) Administrative costs $66.0 $66.0 $81.6 $91.6 $305.2 (Labor, advertising, promotion, evaluation, research, transportation, and training) Estimated energy saved (MWh):
  • Couponed Items 91.7 364.8 5,801.6 8,355.5 14,613.6
  • Rebated Items 114.2 297.9 300.6 426.3 1,139.0
Retailer infrastructure Pre-Program: (Total # retailers = 100) # Selling CFLs 4 62 # CFL Brands Sold 3 12 # CFL Models Sold 6 63+ CFL pricing ($ Range per Compact, Entire Service Area):
  • Without MGE or Trade $15-$20 $5-$29 Rebates
  • With MGE or Trade $10-$15 ($5)-$24 Rebates


BUYING DOWN THE MANUFACTURERS: THE SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA EDISON STORY

In 1991, after an unsuccessful compact fluorescent consumer rebate program, program designers at Southern California Edison were looking for a radically new strategy. Their solution, an innovative manufacturer rebate program, is based on a simple principle: Make the arithmetic of retail markups do the work for you.

Typically, the retail price for a light bulb is made up of the wholesale price plus a percentage markup. For example, if the wholesale cost of a given CFL is $10, and the typical retail markup is 67% ($6.70), the lamp will retail for $16.70. A $5 rebate coupon would lower the retail price to $11.70.

However, if the utility can successfully reduce the wholesale price, the $5 rebate will grow with the markups. Using the example above, if the utility shifts its rebate over to the manufacturer, the wholesale price will be reduced from $10 to $5. The markup percentage is still the same (67%), but the markup sum is considerably lower--$3.35 instead of $6.70. Thus the final retail price becomes $8.35 ($5 + $3.35). If the manufacturer can be encouraged to match the utility incentive with an additional discount, this will translate into an even greater reduction at the end of the chain.

SCE ran a successful pilot program in 1991, and allocated $2.5 million in 1992 for a $5 rebate for 518,000 lamps, plus funds for administration. Nine manufacturers decided to join the program and were rewarded a sum of points based on product quality features like high power factor, good color rendering, and high lumen per watt output for each of three power classes. Manufacturers could earn extra points if they were willing to match the SCE rebate with additional discounts or by offering promotional plans and cooperative advertising money for their retailers. Based on the manufacturer's relative score, each was given a share of the total 518,000 lamp rebates. The manufacturers were allowed flexibility to apply differing amounts of the $5 rebate to different models.

The program was extremely successful and administrative costs were very low. For each $5 per lamp rebate, administration costs were little more than 50cents--about 10% of program costs. (In contrast, SCE had spent 70% of program funds on administration for their 1991 consumer rebate.)

By the end of 1992, almost 1 million CFLs had been sold through the program. Estimated annual electricity savings for the 1992 program were about 53 million kWh.

The 500,000-lamp program was successfully repeated in 1993, and again in 1994. SCE is also applying the manufacturer rebate approach to an electric motor program, and other utilities are adopting the approach for CFLs and other technologies.

This information was excerpted from the International Association of Energy-Efficient Lighting (IAEEL) Newsletter, 1/94, with permission. IAEEL can be contacted care of Nutek, DOEE, S-11786 Stockholm, Sweden. Tel: 46-8-681-9571; Fax: 46-8-681-9585.

 


Judgement Day for CFLs

I've been experimenting with a CFL conversion program in my home for the past decade and my wife has proven to be the most critical judge of conversion success. My home offers typical conversion opportunities: table lamps, square recessed ceiling fixtures, globe-type surface-mount ceiling fixtures, swag lamps, and recessed can ceiling lights. The following conversion chronology, while subjective, provides insight into the subtleties of consumer acceptance.

The first conversion I made was to a table lamp in the living room with an oversized shade and non-removable harp. It was retrofitted with a magnetically ballasted 22-watt circline by disassembling the circline, installing the ballast assembly in the lamp socket, and then reassembling the lamp inside the harp. This combination persisted for several years because the lamp was not used very much, but it suffered from blinking on start, insufficient light output, and poor color rendition. As a result of that experience, magnetically-ballasted lamps were not considered further. The electronic integrally ballasted CFLs offer instant start, lighter weight, and higher efficacy.

The second conversion was a similar table lamp on a night stand in the bedroom. This table lamp is connected to a switched outlet and provides the principal area lighting in the room. It was fitted with a Philips SL-18 Earth Light. The table lamp's oversize harp and shade were big enough to accommodate the CFL. While the Earth Light eliminated the blinking on start and offered improved color rendition and light output over the circline in the living room, it suffered from inadequate light output for the application and an annoyingly long warm-up period before the lamp stabilized at full brightness. This lamp lasted two days before the judge ordered it removed.

It was replaced with a Panasonic 27-watt EFD-27LE. The Panasonic lamp fit the application, was quick to come up to full brightness, offered adequate light output overall, and provided good color rendition. While not obvious, the Panasonic had one shortcoming. Like other lamps that tend to come up quickly to full brightness it has a significantly shorter life when subjected to frequent starts. I considered this an acceptable concession in exchange for quick light. The judge, although not pleased with fluorescents in general, allowed it to remain for over a year until an improvement was found.

The third conversion was a prototype Lights of America 30-watt, circline C2030TP. When production models were available, the table lamp in the living room was also equipped with the LOA C2030TP. These lamps fully met the judge's expectations and are still in use today. In fact, all the table lamps in the house have been retrofit with different sizes of LOA circlines.

Even this seemingly happy outcome is fraught with one small problem. The Mitsubishi television across the room from the table lamp in the bedroom occasionally experiences muted volume. This is attributed to the TV's inability to differentiate between signals from its remote controller and the 30-watt CFL across the room!

When the Philips 15, 20, and 23-watt SLS-15, 20 and 23 lamps became available, they quickly found their way into the square ceiling recessed fixtures, surface-mount, and hanging-globe lamps. These lamps are excellent and are the first ones on the market that would fit the remaining applications in the test home while providing adequate light output. The only shortcoming of this retrofit occurs when company arrives at night. By the time the entryway light comes up to full brightness, the company has come through the front door, been dimly greeted, and moved on to the family room. The judge is tolerating this arrangement.

The outdoor lamps designed for 150-watt PAR-38 lamps were initially equipped with their halogen counterpart, and eventually fitted with halogen-infrared (IR) lamps, motion sensors, or both. Further, the louver lights along the walkway by the side of the house were retrofitted with the Philips 15-watt SLS-15 lamps which were the only products that would fit in that small a space. This circuit is on photocell-control and is on all night, so the conversion offers considerable cost savings over the incandescent alternative.

The latest conversion attempted was the hall light. It is a surface-mounted 4-sided fixture, operated on an Intermatic electronic time switch rated for 400-watt incandescent-only lamps. This presented a problem since the author wanted the power failure carry-through that the timer switch offered, but needed to find a CFL compatible with the incandescent only switch rating. A Sylvania (Osram) 23-watt, Dulux EL (Delta) lamp was tried first. It worked, but presented an annoying flicker that probably resulted from some interaction between the lamp's unfavorable power factor and total harmonic distortion, and the timer switch's electronics.

It was replaced with a Lights of America 22-watt circline, 2022TP-MPF, to see if its improved power factor and reduced harmonic distortion would allow proper operation with the electronic timer. Much to my surprise, it turned on, but would not turn off. The lamp went off, but then with the electronic timer switch turned off, blinked repeatedly about once per second! The only remaining improved-power-factor, low-total-harmonic-distortion lamp, a General Electric 20-watt (Biax) FLE20TBX/SPX27 lamp, was tried. It has worked flawlessly and has been allowed by the judge to remain.

Additionally, we have replaced all of the lamps in the test home that are on dimmers with either halogen A-lamps, or halogen PAR lamps.

The retrofit test will continue as better products become available, but between the Philips, Lights of America circline, and G.E. products, virtually all the conversion opportunities are taken. The only remaining complaint is that some of the lamps are slow to come up to full brightness.

-- Gary B. Fernstrom

 

 

 

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